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kyle cassidy

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The Blog Post on Packing [Sep. 7th, 2013|03:52 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Walk Off the Earth: Red Hands]

I travel a lot. A few weeks ago when I picked up Amanda in the airport we talked about the best ways to stuff stuff into stuff and I realized that I should do a comprehensive blog post about it. So this is how to be a globetrotting photographer, getting your things from one place to another with the least hassle.

(tl:dr get functional clothes that pack small and perform multiple purposes, be organized, don't weigh yourself down with things that perform only one function.)

1) Pack small. Don't check bags.

Checking bags is a hassle -- it slows you down getting on and off of the plane and the airline can misplace your luggage, lots of airlines charge for checked bags now and someone has to carry all that stuff once you get wherever you're going. When I travel I want to be able to carry everything that I'm going to use with me, like a snail. Or a turtle. Or a flying turtle, like Gamera. This limits you to one carry on and one "small personal item". So you need to be able to fit all your gear and your clothes into a small space. This is particularly difficult for photographers who are carrying dozens of pounds of gear as well as the stuff everybody else brings with them ordinarily.

Here's me in an airport with all my camera gear in a Loweprow AW Trekker, sometime in 2011.
It's made for cameras and also has a laptop bag slot, which you can also stuff with clothes.
Backpacks are efficient and good for carrying your gear when you get to your destination,
but they're more fatiguing than a rollerbag.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

2) Buy clothes made for backpackers.

Why re-invent the wheel? Backpackers have been trying to get things small since the backpack was invented. Cotten is right out, it's bulky and it takes a long time to dry. Polyester clothes you can wash in the sink at night, hang them on a towel rack and they'll be dry in the morning. I usually bring two pairs of cargo pants, three shirts, and two pairs of travel underwear. You wash one set of everything each night and rotate between three shirts so it doesn't look like you have the worlds most limited wardrobe. Here's a link to some EMS camp cargo pants, if you're reading this in the future and the EMS link is dead, they're cargo pants made out of really thin fabric that roll up about 50% smaller than a pair of denim jeans and weigh maybe 1/3 of what jeans do. You want these.

3) Use packing cubes.

Packing cubes not only keep things organized, but they keep stuff compressed.
You can find them at places like Eastern Mountain Sports or REI. Bring an empty cube to keep your dirty clothes in.

Small Eagle Creek packing cube with a pair of pants and a shirt stuffed in.
You can make it smallllll. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

4) They don't count your clothes as a carry on.

This is the Big Secret so I'm bolding it. If you're wearing it, they don't count it. So buy yourself a Domke PhoTogs vest.

I have a messenger style camera bag and this is what I usually carry around with me. One camera, (two if you count the iPhone, and I've used it before), five lenses some batteries, storage, a first aid kit (the green thing) with pain killers, antacids, anti diarrhea meds, decongestants, emergency money (bills and change), Band Aids, allergy pills and some sleeping pills.)

This is usually my "personal item". Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Having a camera bag like this kind of screws your "personal item" that other people might use to carry around important shiznit. So, I take everything out of my camera bag and put it in the vest. Now you've got all your gear with you if you need it and you can either stuff your empty messenger bag in your other carry on and bring a larger duffle bag, or put more stuff in your carryon.

Likewise, don't put that bulky sweater in your suitcase, wear it on to the plane. If it's too warm, tie it around your waist.

Everything in the vest, now you get a whole new "personal item". Clickenzee to Embiggen!

5) You don't have to put your bag in the overhead over your own seat.

There are fewer overhead bins at the back of the plane, in fact, the last two rows don't usually have any. That's where they store some of the emergency equipment and the crew's bags are often there too. When getting on the plane scope out the overhead space on the way to your seat, if the bin is already full where you're sitting, put your bag in the next space you pass. You don't want your bag full of zillion dollar lenses to get gate checked and returned to you like a bag of broken light bulbs. (In addition, the first few rows on some planes have slightly smaller overheads due to the curvature of the fuselage.)

6) Get an e-reader.

Yes, I know how cool you look reading a tattered trade paperback o Tristram Shandy but books will weigh you down faster than anything else. If you need to put a sticker on the back of your iPad that says "NOT READING 50 SHADES OF GREY" but suck it up and leave the books at home. Before you got to 10,000 feet you can look at the in-flight catalog and wonder who on Earth buys that crap.

7) Pack things you can't get at your destination.

It's really easy to borrow a shirt from someone when you get to Tulsa, or to buy one at ye local store, it's more difficult to get a charger for your sony Mavica, so pack that first.

8) Pack food.

Pack portable food that will keep, like energy bars. Fruit is nice but it's destroyed too easily banging around in your luggage. Don't pack something that's going to make you thirsty, like a jar of salted peanuts.

9) Leave your core travel items in your luggage.

You know that stuff you need every time you travel? Your toothbrush, your swim suit (there will be a hot tub at the hotel if you don't pack it, plus it doubles as "lounging around" wear while you're washing your pants) your first aid kit, your business cards, and model releases -- keep all that stuff in your bag all the time. (Roswell here is sitting on the nail clippers.) This save a bunch of time while you're packing. I also leave a travel cube with underwear and socks in my bag so when it's time to go you don't need to wonder if you've packed that stuff.

Leave your core items packed. Clickenzee to Embiggen!


10) Always have enough gear on your person to get the assignment done if you lose all the rest of your stuff.

My grandfather was an electrician who always used to say "study the hazards" -- which is useful advice. When you're packing you should be thinking "what happens if..." -- What happens if you lose that suitcase? What happens if that camera stops working? What happens if your card reader dies?

I bring a backup of everything critical -- which means an extra camera, extra memory, extra batteries, so that if something stops working you don't need to worry about trying to fix it while people are tapping their toes and staring at you, you just swap it out.

On the left here is the gear that I packed for a roller derby portrait shoot in Minnesota, it's everything that I needed to get the job done awesomely. On the right is a backup kit that I could do the job with if somehow the airline lost all my gear. Bringing a backup doesn't mean a duplicate. If your main camera is a big gigantic DSLR, you don't need another one of the same model, you can pack a smaller camera. Enough to get the job done.

Bring Backups. Clickenzee to Embiggen!


So that's it. Get small stuff, pack it tight, keep it with you, don't bring things you don't need. The goal is coming back with the pictures. It's very easy to pack way more clothes than you need.

Patrick Rhone adds this link to a post where he's collected rewviews of "traveling pants".

Someone had asked about traveling with numerous bottles of medicine and the large amount of space taken up by mostly empty bottles. Thanks to Jennifer E. Carr from Facebook who says: "I am a Pharmacy Tech (in my other life) and we will put medications into plastic bags with all the information you need to get through the airport." And this from Celeste Young "you can also get blister packs done up on the weekly with an 'official' print out of all the meds taken."

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From: zqfmbg
2013-09-07 08:12 pm (UTC)
I like to think the picture of Roswell is a directive to "pack your cat".
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[User Picture]From: moon_chylde
2013-09-07 08:16 pm (UTC)
Hahaa. I thought that too.
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[User Picture]From: moon_chylde
2013-09-07 08:13 pm (UTC)
Wow. Not to be all Spock, but that was fascinating.
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[User Picture]From: ammitnox
2013-09-07 09:31 pm (UTC)
Have you used any of the iPhone/iPad model release apps?

Also, I do get really frustrated when I get on the plane and I'm sitting toward the front, and all the people who sit in the back have taken up the front overhead compartments with their bags, and the flight attendants have to dig around for a space for my bag, and then I have to wait until everyone has deplaned to go to the back of the plane to get my bag. This especially happens when I have to rush to another gate to get on a connecting flight. NB: I have terrible travel karma.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-09-07 11:50 pm (UTC)
i have "iRelease" on my iphone & ipad & i have used it a couple of times, but the release that's on there is really ... daunting? it sounds like you're ripping people off, so i only use it if i'm completely out of other forms. i like something that sounds a lot friendlier.
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[User Picture]From: howlokitty
2013-09-07 09:59 pm (UTC)
I have a couple things to add for international travel:

When something goes wrong with your iPhone and you're traveling in Europe, you'll realize that everyone and their brother has an iPhone or other iProduct and will be able to direct you to an electronics store or let you borrow their charger. Also, if you go to little convenience stores, you'll realize that you can get a very functional charger with a wall mount for a few euros/pounds. When you get back the the US, prices on iAccessories will seem barbaric.

Don't tell customs you don't have checked baggage. It looks suspicious on an international flight, and they might detain you. If someone in customs tries to direct you to baggage claim, smile and nod and go there, chances are it will be close to arrivals pick-up, anyways. (I had to answer questions for about 10 minutes coming back from Britain because I said "Oh, I don't have checked luggage. I have everything I need right here!")

Even lugging a heavy carry-on through multiple airports, subways, taxis, buses, cafes with baggage checks for backpackers, and hotel and hostel hallways is annoying. Whatever you think is the bare minimum when you're packing will still be a burden when you have to carry it around.
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[User Picture]From: livejournal
2013-09-07 10:07 pm (UTC)

Kyle Cassidy: The Blog Post on Packing

User angela_n_hunt referenced to your post from Kyle Cassidy: The Blog Post on Packing saying: [...] thing, like it is mine. And here's Kyle... Originally posted by at The Blog Post on Packing [...]
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From: angela_n_hunt
2013-09-07 10:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, but how do you get Roswell by the TSA, since he so clearly gets packed... :D
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[User Picture]From: tripleransom
2013-09-07 11:09 pm (UTC)
How do you get Roswell to compress into the travel cube? Or do you carry her in one of the pockets in your vest?
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-09-07 11:50 pm (UTC)
i strap a couple of travel cubes to her sides like saddlebags and she walks along with me.
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[User Picture]From: ehowton
2013-09-07 11:16 pm (UTC)
Very awesome. Functional AND Roswell pics.
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[User Picture]From: ammitnox
2013-09-08 12:26 am (UTC)
to add value!
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[User Picture]From: eiriene
2013-09-07 11:24 pm (UTC)
While I think this is generally an awesome post, I also think there are some assumptions here due to your age and good health.

I can't, as in, it would never work, travel with just a carry-on and a personal item. I have thirteen different medications that have to come with me, in their original packaging especially internationally. Once you put thirteen pill bottles and boxes of varying sizes into a standard carry-on, you soon find that there's precious little room to fit anything else. And there are people who have it worse than me: my father has to travel with a nebulizer, or he'll have trouble breathing.

Also, backpacking clothing isn't an option for everyone; it only goes up to a certain size, and woe to you, if you're a plus-size woman who falls just beyond that size. =) So at that point, you're stuck with the bulkier, non-fast drying clothing, purely because going naked is the other option.

Edited at 2013-09-07 11:24 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: blpurdom
2013-09-08 12:11 am (UTC)
Good point. Or if you are simply going someplace that's cold enough you may want more than one sweater (to again avoid that limited-wardrobe-effect) or if you are expecting to go to at least one nice place where you will want to dress up a little, you may have to tweak this considerably. To help with this, when my husband and I go to London in mid-to-late October, we are staying in a house rather than a hotel, and I made sure I checked off that I wanted a house with a washer and dryer, which we got.* This means I can pack a couple of pairs of polyester slacks and tights (for layering, giving me more warmth) that can be rewashed while we're there, so I don't need to pack as many. These will be comfy for sightseeing during the day, along with a sweater and a wool coat that I will wear onto the plane, to save packing space. (I've done this--you take off the coat at sit on it on the plane. This is totally doable and you can still fasten the seatbelt. And just for a trans-Atlantic flight, the wool coat won't wrinkle.)

I'll also wear a pair of boots onto the plane and pack a pair of less-space-consuming shoes (something flat and comfy for massive amounts of walking), as well as skirts I'll wear with the boots when I want to go to a dressy restaurant. (Plus a dressier, thinner sweater that won't take up a lot of space. The wool coat over this will keep me toasty.) And the sweaters I'll be taking will all be machine-washable--nothing requiring dry-cleaning.

The challenge will be selecting clothes that have pockets, since a lot of women's clothes don't. I've heard that it's best to be really careful about your stuff when in London at any place that's considered "touristy". They're magnets for purse-snatchers and pickpockets, and I don't want to deal with the chaos of a stolen credit card (or more) while in a different country! And, obviously, because we're going to London in October, I'm going to need to take an umbrella. Some things are non-negotiable. But I can stash that in my under-the-seat bag (a messenger-bag style computer bag that doubles as a roomy pocketbook.)

* Renting a house in Islington is surprisingly affordable--less than many very tiny London hotel rooms! Weirdly, though, a lot of English houses don't have tumble dryers. I passed on a lot of very nice houses that listed their amenities as including washers but no dryers.
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From: steanne
2013-09-08 01:02 am (UTC)
those cargo pants look really neat, but when i look where the zipper to make shorts falls on the leg of the men's version compared to the women's, it make me want to wear the men's.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-09-08 01:24 am (UTC)
Do it! The pants don't care. Use the stuff that works best, not what someone tells you you should.
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[User Picture]From: kellymccullough
2013-09-08 01:44 am (UTC)
This covers most of what we do. I'd add:

Roll, don't fold—rolled clothes are less wrinkled and they pack tighter than folded (learned from my Navy vet grandmother).

Internal frame backpacks designed for carry-on specs rock—doubly so if they have an expansion zipper that lets you throw all your extra gear into the bag with the good back support when you're carrying it across town after you get off the plane.

Carbiners are you're friend, they let you clip extra stuff to the outside of you bag.

Oh, and we always backpack it because roller wheels on your bag just use up space that could be better used for gear.
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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2013-09-08 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, rolling is the big secret I've discovered. Amazing! Most of the benefits of the packing tension bags, without the weight and space of the bags.
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[User Picture]From: oracne
2013-09-08 01:34 pm (UTC)
What size cube should one use for the cat?
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-09-09 01:32 pm (UTC)
Roswell packs down into one carry-on sized rollerbag.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2013-09-08 06:56 pm (UTC)
That polyester thing is a non-starter, though; that stuff makes me sweat and stink amazingly.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-09-09 08:22 pm (UTC)
You're thinking of the wrong type of polyester.

This will keep you cooler in the summer than any cotton shirt you have. Modern fabrics made by science! To the rescue! (Lone Ranger theme.)
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[User Picture]From: hoppytoad79
2013-09-09 12:09 am (UTC)
When traveling, one thing I've found to be true is that however much clothing you're planning to bring, halve it; however much money, double it.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-09-10 01:37 pm (UTC)
sage wisdom. i also catalog the stuff that i don't use and the stuff that's saved my rumpus.
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[User Picture]From: arkham4269
2013-09-09 04:12 pm (UTC)

Freezer bags

During my deployment, I would use freezer bags which would hold one shirt, one pair of underwear and a pair of socks. after you pack it, you close it most of the way and then suck the air out manually. This compressed it to a very small size. Day one, pull out a bag; Day two repeat. This method fights the problem of 'expanding' clothes when packing to go home. Plus you could visually see how many days you had till you had to do laundry.

Plus if you are at one locatino and going to another and are worried you might get stuck or just have to stay overnight, one of these 'under-bags' could be tossed into your backback so while you may have to wear the same clothes, your undies are fresh.

(True the shirt used here was a t-shirt given I was wearing BDU's but the concept is still good considering how many of us wear t-type shirts all the time)
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-09-09 08:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Freezer bags

great advice!
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